The past Halloween, all dressed up in my ninja suit, I took a cab to a club downtown. The cabbie, a student hailing from Uzbekistan where Halloween has been outlawed, curiously prodded me with questions about the holiday: Why do kids go around collecting candy? Are any costumes off limits? Why the scary things? Isn’t life scary enough as is?

That last question stayed with me over the past month. Why dig up the scary stuff and feel our fears? Personally I think it’s a healthy and necessary practice to peel away the layers of our subconscious where many fears hibernate. When the fears, rational or not, are brought to the surface we are much more able to face and overcome them. To me, that’s the purpose of scary haunted houses, practicing “corpse pose” and examining our “baggage” in psychotherapeutic settings.

We human beings have three basic needs: love, safety, and belonging.

Have you ever noticed that you sometimes get close to what you really want in life and then something derails you? That’s because your subconscious is scared. It’s freaked out that it will lose love, safety and belonging. And so it pulls you back to what feels comfortable. As you get closer to the life you yearn for this greater and greater force drags you back in the opposite direction.

Here’s a fictional example of this: let’s say that my Uzbekistani cabbie is a part-time student and a part-time musician. And let’s say that he wants to make $100,000 to pay off his tuition so he really gets serious about his music, gets taken up by a record label, and has almost overnight success. Meanwhile, his starving student friends see him getting ahead; suddenly he is the only one no longer complaining about where the rent is coming from.  Subtly but surely his friends start to push him out of their social circle because he’s no longer one of them: one of the rules of belonging in this starving student tribe is financial struggle. 

When my cabbie friend is no longer struggling financially, it will feel like he is losing her sense of belonging. This will feel like a dangerous inner conflict. And the inner conflict is something like, “if I make money, then I will lose my friends,” which creates a strong pull in the opposite direction from the financial success he says he wants.

Make sense? Sound familiar? If the cab driver doesn’t face his fears of losing love, safety and belonging, he will never earn the money to pay off his tuition.

If we have a subconscious objection to having money because it will divide us from our tribe, we’ll lose it. Sometimes this will happen in amazingly creative ways that others would call “bad luck.” It may look something like a $2000 car repair or gaining 15 pounds and therefore needing to buy a new wardrobe for $3000.

These subconscious fears form at a very early preverbal age. As wee little ones we make decisions that become strategies for keeping love, safety, and belonging intact. These strategies carry on in our adult lives. They actually become the basis of our patterns. Have you ever experienced the same thing again and again?  Patterns like losing weight and gaining it back again and again or falling in love with the same sort of unavailable man over many years may be the workings of a subconscious fear of losing love, safety and belonging.

If your lurking fear or limiting beliefs are stronger than the desire for change then they will act like a bungee cord that drops and then retracts, pulling you back into your old way of being.  Thus our fears – usually unbeknownst to us – continue and keep us stuck in old, unhelpful patterns. In my opinion that’s real hell house of human experience.

In order for someone to get what they want, with the help of a coach, therapist or on their own, they must uncover their fears. To acknowledge the paralyzing fear of losing love, safety and belonging to to overcome it. To achieve lasting transformation begin by lifting the veil.